Helias romps past Warrensburg

COLUMBIA — The Helias Crusaders have excelled at knocking down the 3-point shot this season, hitting 37 percent of their treys on the year.

That pales in comparison to what the Crusaders accomplished Sunday night.

Helias connected on 13-of-22 attempts from beyond the arc, good for a season-best 59.1 percent, as the Crusaders cruised past the Warrensburg Tigers 75-35 in the MFA Oil/Break Time Shootout at Mizzou Arena.

“We just have a lot of good shooters and when they’re open they’re just able to knock down shots,” said Helias guard Isiah Sykes, who knocked down a pair of 3s and poured in a game-high 21 points en route to being named the game’s most valuable player.

Six Crusaders canned at least one 3-pointer, led by guard Sam Husting’s 4-for-5 night.

“I was just looking for the open shot and I was making them tonight,” Husting said. “I was fortunate enough.”

Collin Caywood went 3-for-4 from long range, Brock Gerstner went 2-for-3 and Adam Bax and Weston Porter both connected on single attempts.

“Shot selection, No. 1,” Helias head coach Josh Buffington offered as the reason for the hot shooting. “Obviously we really filled it up tonight from the perimeter. Their game plan was to stop our post play. … Our post players made great decisions, kicking the basketball out, making the right play, making the easy pass and we were able to knock them down.”

The 3-point barrage started early. Not only did Helias’ first three field goals came from beyond the arc, the Crusaders knocked down seven 3-pointers in the first quarter alone.

“I thought our guys played inside-out early on,” Buffington said. “I know we started off with three 3s in our first four or five possessions, but it was coming inside-out. We were trying to get paint touches with our guards and trying to get post touches with our feeds.”

That helped Helias jump out to a 23-4 lead, which later was extended to 29-11 after one period thanks to a buzzer-beating trey from Husting.

While the 3-pointers weren’t falling at nearly the same rate the rest of the game, the rest of Helias’ shots were. The Crusaders went 26-of-42 from the field (62 percent), including 13-of-20 from 2-point range (65 percent).

“I think we can be a very tough matchup for a lot of people,” Buffington said. “But again, you don’t always shoot it like that. I think the thing I’m most proud of this team to this point is the way we’re defending. We’ve proven we can win in different ways, we can win on nights we don’t shoot it well, too.”

Helias held Warrensburg to just 31 percent shooting on the game, including 1-of-15 from 3-point range (6.7 percent).

Helias went up 41-17 at halftime and took a 61-23 edge into the final period.

That’s when the starters went to the bench, allowing all the reserves and some junior-varsity players some experience on a big stage. Fourteen Crusaders saw playing time — and at least five minutes of it — while 11 players found the scoring column.

“Not every kid in the state gets to do this so we feel very fortunate to be invited, No. 1, and to experience it, No. 2,” Buffington said.

Helias’ biggest lead came at 68-23 on a layup from Trevor Koelling with 5:47 to play.

Sykes — who was called Isaac by the public address announcer all game long — and Husting (14 points) were the only Crusaders to finish in double figures.

“I didn’t notice that at all,” Sykes said with a laugh.

Dakota Jones paced the Tigers with 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting.

Helias (12-3) begins play in the Bolivar Tournament on Wednesday against Odessa.

“They’re having fun right now, which is huge,” Buffington said. “… We just need to keep getting better and remember defense is a staple of our program. Good shooting nights come when you’re playing within the system.”

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